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Environmental vandalism triggers Council action

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Fame Cove (Nov 2015)lenyMon, 05/12/2016 - 10:15am
Fame Cove (Nov 2015)
Fame Cove (Nov 2015)

Serious environmental damage to the iconic Fame Cove/North Arm Cove waterfront site in Port Stephens has prompted Mid Coast Council to slap a stop work order on owner and developer Mr Dong Fang Lee and his company Tea Garden Farms*.

The most recent assault on the site is a new, unapproved road that runs like a huge scar from the waterfront, up Fame Mountain to the summit and then beyond towards Piggy’s Beach, adjacent to Port Stephens marine park and a section of Myall Lakes National Park.

No attempt was made to control erosion or subsequent siltation of the marine park and waterways of Port Stephens. As well it is a blight on the coastal landscape as it is clearly visible from the entry to Fame Cove and so from the shoreline of Port Stephens.

Recent site inspections by Council officers left them appalled not only by this environmental outrage but by the prolific devastation that has resulted from work being carried out without permit or consultation. The inspections were prompted, in part, by complaints from the North Arm Cove Residents Association.

Mr Len Yearsley, the association’s vice president, pointed out that the developer has previously incurred fines and costs in excess of $250,000 for major environmental breaches on this site. “Because of its high conservation value, including its 6 km of pristine waterfront, the site has been subject to detailed ecological and environmental reports by Council,” he added.

MCC Planning Director Lisa Schiff indicated at a recent Community Update Meeting that Council is seeking legal advice to bring action against the developer to stop unauthorized and excessive works, which exceed the authority of Development Applications issued by Council.

The North Arm Cove Residents Association has brought this devastation to the attention of the Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Mark Speakman, and the Minister for Primary Industries Land and Water, Niall Blair, along with their relevant departments. We have called on them urgently to use all the authority available to assist Mid Coast Council in carrying out prosecution of these apparent criminal
actions.

* Tea Gardens Farms is now known as LDF ENTERPRISE PTY LTD

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This article by Lucy Macken in the Fairfax Domain 11/12/2016

Eco-developer from China in trouble over claims of serious environmental damage
10078Reading now
Dec 11, 2016Lucy MackentwitterDomain Prestige Reporter
When wealthy Chinese businessman Phillip Dong Fang Lee proposed an eco-development for his Port Stephens property the plans were greeted with relief by many at council, not only for the sustainable employment it offered but the protection it offered the pristine bushland.
Having purchased the 100 hectares of oceanfront land adjoining Myall Lakes National Park a decade ago for $8.8 million, Mr Lee last year entered discussions for waterfront eco-cabins modelled loosely on the Wolgan Valley Resort, with concept plans by architect Peter Stutchbury and detailed studies commissioned on the area’s flora and fauna.
But those hopes for the conservation area have been left in doubt after serious environmental damage prompted MidCoast Council to slap stop-work and clean-up orders on Mr Lee’s company amid concerns to threatened species, unauthorised road building and land clearing.
An aerial view of Fame Cove, where Chinese businessman Phillip Dong Fang Lee owns 100 hectares of oceanfront land.
On the same day as the NSW Land and Environment Court on Thursday extended that stop-work injunction until a hearing next week, a consultant for Mr Lee’s company submitted a new application for a quarry on the property allowing the extraction of up to 25,000 cubic metres of rock.
“There’s not much pristine bushland left along the east coast of NSW but this property lays claim to six kilometres of coastline that is well known to visiting yachts as one of the most remote and protected anchorages along the coast,” Len Yearsley, vice-president of the North Arm Cove Residents Association, said.
Greg Pevitt, an adviser for Mr Lee’s LDF Enterprises, did not respond to inquiries by Domain. Until late last year Mr Pevitt was investigations and prosecutions co-ordinator for council, and had previously publicly expressed concern at Mr Lee’s tree clearing in the past.
The sale of Mandalay set a record for a non-waterfront Australian house. Photo: Ben Rushton
Last year Mr Lee’s Tea Garden Farms company was fined $8000 after a section of bushland on the property was cleared and the felled trees left in a protected marine sanctuary at Fame Cove.
In 2009 sediment-polluted water flowed into North Arm Cove after a dam wall failed during excavation work, and as a result the company was fined almost $200,000 in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
Mr Lee’s original plans for the Fame Cove property date back to 2007 when he won council approval for an 11-bedroom mansion with staff quarters and 11-car garage spread over 3000 square metres, at a cost of $4 million.
Phillip Dong Fang Lee and wife Shi Xiaobei bought the Mandalay mansion in Point Piper for $39.9 million in 2015. Photo: Supplied.
The large-scale developer and road construction businessman from China is best known in Sydney with his wife Shi Xiaobei as the $39.9 million buyer of the Point Piper mansion Mandalay last year. The couple also made headlines last year when they purchased the two penthouses atop the art deco block next door to their Point Piper home for $12 million.
The couple’s interest in the Port Stephens holiday area expanded dramatically in the last three months of last year, with four separate rural properties purchased for a total of $16.4 million in company names and covering more than 2700 hectares from Tea Gardens to nearby Nerang.
Mr Lee’s solicitor Digby Dunn, of Stacks Law Firm, was approached for comment but did not return Domain’s calls at the time of print.

Thank you Len and Doug for your persistence in pursuing this issue. Thanks also for the listing of names and addresses that assisted us in writing letters on the issue.
all the best,
Darrall Thompson and Philippa Coltart

Council Press Release 6 Dec

MidCoast Council is seeking court relief to ensure all works undertaken on land owned by LDF Enterprise Pty Ltd at Fame Cove are conducted with development consent.

On Friday 2 December, Council successfully sought an injunction in the NSW Land and Environment Court for the owner to cease all work at various sites on the land. This injunction reinforces a stop work order issued by Council on 16 November.

The injunction aims to prevent any possible environmental damage caused by work already undertaken and for Council to proceed with an investigation into whether the work undertaken so far requires approval or is compliant with development consents issued.

Council also issued a clean-up order on 1 December, within its power under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, to force the landholder to undertake immediate environmental protection measures.

"The purpose of these urgent mitigation works is to prevent possible erosion and sediment pollution of Fame Creek, North Arm Cove and the wider Port Stephens Marine Park area as a result of works undertaken on the site" said Council's Director of Planning and Natural Systems, Lisa Schiff.

The temporary injunction expires at 3pm on Thursday 8 December 2016 but Council will be seeking to have the injunction extended to enable all works to cease, pending completion of the actions set out in the Clean-up Notice.

"Council will be continuing its investigation into the unauthorised works on the site and will also be looking at seeking remediation of those parts of the site that have been impacted without the required approvals” said Lisa Schiff.

In addition, other NSW and Federal agencies may be conducting investigations under relevant legislation, including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW Fisheries, NSW Marine Parks Authority and the Federal Department of Environment and Energy.

http://www.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/News-Media/Council-seeks-court-relief-on-...

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